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Resilient communities

How to help your community adapt to changes in the climate


Communities in the dry north-east of Brazil are struggling to cope with drought conditions made worse by climate change.

Communities in the dry north-east of Brazil are struggling to cope with drought conditions made worse by climate change. Photo: Tom Price – Ecce Opus/Tearfund

Indra, Alisha (eight) and Prakash (three) on the steps of their home in Nepal.

From: Home and hospitality – Footsteps 116

How hospitality, kindness and planning can reduce vulnerability and help communities to flourish

Every year, millions of people are forced to leave their homes and communities because of unpredictable weather caused, or made worse, by climate change.

Some experience violent storms and floods that destroy their houses, crops and businesses. Others have to move because there is no longer enough water where they live. Environmental degradation caused by deforestation and unsustainable farming practices often makes these problems worse.

Use the following steps to help your community decide how best to adapt to current changes in the weather, and prepare for future changes. Make sure everyone has the opportunity to participate including young people, older people and people with disabilities.


1. Invite all community members to gather together on a day that works well for the majority of people. Ask the community to select a small group of volunteers (men and women) who will be responsible for planning and monitoring activities, as well as organising future discussions.

2. Use participatory approaches such as mapping (see below) to identify observed changes in the local weather over the last ten years, and the impact of these changes.

3. Discuss what might happen if the weather continues to change.

4. Agree on a few key activities that will help the community adapt to the changes and reduce the risk of disaster – ideally ones that can be implemented using local labour and resources.

For example, communities prone to flooding might decide to:

  • dig drainage channels to safely move water away from homes and other property
  • store seeds and agricultural implements in a raised community building.

Communities prone to drought might:

  • adapt farming practices and plant trees to help retain water in the soil
  • create banks along the contours of land to catch rainwater.

5. Implement these activities in a way that spreads the work evenly. Forexample, a community might agree that one member of each household will join a work party to dig drainage channels on a particular day.

6. Monitor the impact of these activities over time. Are they helping? Are there other things that need to be done, or done differently

Local government offices often have small amounts of funding available for this type of work. Encourage the planning group to advocate for funds and other support on behalf of the community.

Carrying out a mapping exercise in Malawi.

Carrying out a mapping exercise in Malawi. Photo: Alex Baker/Tearfund


Mapping is a participatory tool that can be used to aid community discussions about the effects of climate change in their area. The exercise often leads to helpful conversations about both problems and solutions.

1. In groups of four to six people, draw maps of the main features and landmarks of the community. The maps should include houses, community facilities, roads, bridges, agricultural land and natural resources such as trees and water sources.

It can be helpful for groups of children, young women, young men, older women and older men to create separate maps, as their opinions about risks and priorities may be different.

Maps can be drawn on the ground with sticks, stones and leaves, with chalk on a blackboard or with marker pens on large sheets of paper.

2. In the same groups, mark on the maps any areas affected by changes in the climate. Make a note of the types of impacts, frequency and scale. Are some households more vulnerable than others? Why is this?

3. Look at each other’s maps and discuss the similarities and differences.

4. Discuss what the community might look like in five or ten years’ time if action is not taken now to reduce the impact of climate change.

5. Discuss, agree and prioritise what the community can do to adapt to changes in the climate and reduce the risk of disaster.

Case study: A wonder!

Alzira lives in north-eastern Brazil where long periods of drought are causing many people to migrate to other parts of the country.

She says, ‘I always had problems with the lack of water. It was very difficult. I had to carry it on my back, on my head. We had to fetch water for everything. There were even situations when we needed to get up at midnight to wait for the cacimbão (a small well) to fill a can of water. Whoever arrived first would take it.’

Local organisation Ação Evangélica (ACEV), in partnership with Alzira’s church, began working with the community to identify the changes they were experiencing, and to help them address their water and agricultural needs.

Alzira’s family participated in the discussions and then helped to drill and set up a well near to their house. ACEV provided training in maintenance of the well, sustainable agriculture and environmental management.

Alzira says, ‘The project helped me a lot and I learnt a lot of things. I liked the guidelines for taking better care of the environment. I learnt how to save water and how to manage waste better.

‘Now that I have water here very close to my house, I have extra time to work at home. I really wanted to have a vegetable garden and now I have one in my yard, all fresh and without pesticides. It is a wonder!’

Further reading

Roots guides

Previous editions of Footsteps

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